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economic, environmental and energy assessment of the turin
International Journal of Ecosystems and Ecology Sciences (IJEES)
Vol. 2 (4): 361-368 (2012)
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
ECONOMIC, ENVIRONMENTAL AND ENERGY ASSESSMENT
OF THE TURIN-LYON HIGH-SPEED RAIL
L.Giunti1, L.Mercalli2, A.Poggio3, M. Ponti4, A. Tartaglia3, S.Ulgiati5, M. Zucchetti3,61
1
HSR Technical Committee of CMVSS (see note 1)
2
SMI – Italian Metheorological Society
3
Politecnico di Torino (Italy)
4
Politecnico di Milano (Italy)
5
Parthenope University, Naples (Italy)
6
UCLA (Los Angeles, USA)
Email: [email protected]
Received June, 2012; Accepted October, 2012
ABSTRACT
One of the best known cases of struggle for the commons in Italy, characterized by bitter controversies over the last
20 years, is the popular opposition to the construction of the High Speed Railway line (HSR, “TAV” in Italian)
between Turin and Lyon, designed to cross the Susa Valley (at the Italian-French border) and the Alps. This HSR
project still carries, in spite of twenty years of continuous updating and reworking, a great deal of unsolved
environmental and economic issues. An issue of insufficient cost-benefit balance has recently come to clear
evidence, especially in view of the non-negligible passenger and freight traffic decrease along the Turin-Lyon
direction. The most important aspects dealing with economic costs and claimed benefits, energetic considerations,
legal constraints, environmental impact, health impact potential, and the negative experience of other projects, are
discussed: they all suggest that the High-Speed Train Turin-Lyon is not a priority for Italy and France, and its
construction should be immediately stopped.
INTRODUCTION
The construction of the High Speed Railway (HSR, TAV in Italian) line Turin-Lyon in the Susa Valley (Italy) has
long been surrounded by bitter controversies about the most significant and technical aspects of the proposed
project. Beyond the claims and positions in favor or against HSR implementation, this paper aims to explore some
of the critical aspects of the proposed project. The HSR project brings with it, after more than twenty years of
strenuous and continuous reworking, a large number of environmental issues. Main pollution problems dealing with
the railway construction have been put into evidence by several studies and official reports. For instance, the
presence in the Susa Valley of geological formations with asbestos and uranium is a particular concern, also
considering the final destination of the extracted inert [Lucia Bonavigo, Massimo Zucchetti, 2008]. Aspects related
with local hydrogeology and its perturbations, and noise, are also of huge concern [Gianfranco Chiocchia, Marina
Clerico, Pietro Salizzoni et al, 2010]. The insufficient cost-benefit balance, especially in view of the significant
passenger and freight traffic decrease along the Turin-Lyon direction [Angelo Tartaglia,], has come to better
evidence when the French Government (as of July 2012) announced a spending review that could stop the
Email: [email protected]
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construction of the HSR Turin-Lyon and other ones on the French side [report for instance]. Beyond the technical
problems related to the HSR, the Susa Valley has become in the recent years the most famous episode of the
struggle for the Commons in Italy. In this country, the concept of Commons as resources shared among communities
and for which everyone has the right to be involved in decisions that expose them to risk or damage is still far from
being widely accepted, even by some scholars that are strongly against this project. These scholars think that local
resistance can be easily manipulated in order to demonstrate an “egoistic” attitude of the opponents, of the
“NIMBY” type (Not In My BackYard). The No-HSR movement (“Movimento NOTAV” in Italian) 2 has put this
question into evidence to the eyes of the Italian public opinion: beyond the question “HSR yes/no”, the opposition
movement puts forward its struggle as a legal/social/political strategy for reclaiming the Commons (land use change,
water availability and quality, hydro-geologic stability, biodiversity affected by the infrastructure, quiet) and
protecting them from privatization, claiming for a different concept of democracy and public participation [Donald
Gray, Laura Colucci-Gray and Elena Camino,2009]. Last but not least, the concept itself of this type of investment
is under deep review, since the huge amount of public money invested or planned in support of such development
does not appear to be justified by sufficient economic benefits related with the investment. In other words, not only a
sequestration and degradation of the Commons is going to take place, but also there is no advantage at all in
economic terms, except probably for the companies involved and, more likely, the banking system. Getting back to
the technical questions, we believe that the usual appeal to the Precautionary Principle, in the case of HSR project, is
not even necessary. Economic data, energetic considerations, legal questions, environmental impact, the health
impact potential, the negative experience of other projects, and especially the common sense, suggest that the HighSpeed Train Turin-Lyon is not an actual priority for Italy, and its construction should be immediately stopped.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The Susa Valley. A brief description of its nature and history.The Susa Valley is located in Northwest Italy at
the border with France, from which it is separated by the Alps, 3600 meters high. It is the widest valley in the
Western Alps; in fact, it is a natural corridor stretching from East to West. The two sides of the valley benefit from
different sun exposure and this makes them quite different from one another. The left side is dry, while the right side
is humid, shady and cold. The natural environment, and particularly the flora, are deeply affected by this peculiarity,
resulting in a valley with extremely variegated and interesting sites and habitats. In particular, the Susa Valley is
defined as a Site of Community Importance (SCI) according to the so-called European Commission “Habitats
Directive” (92/43/EEC), within the Natura 2000 Network. The Dora Riparia River runs through the valley, and there
are abundant springs and superficial aquifers. In the high part of the valley there are pastures, while at lower heights
(1300–1800 meters) there are steep crevasses. The Susa Valley is among the most developed alpine valleys from
economic and infrastructural points of view. It is crossed by two main roads through the passes Monginevro and
Moncenisio. Moreover, a motorway and an international railway reach France through the Fréjus tunnel. The Valley
hosts three hydroelectric dams and is crossed by two electric lines. Many tourist and sport resorts make the valley a
tourist attraction (is also was the base of the 2006 Winter Olympics). There are many industries, including mining,
and many military roads built in previous centuries that are currently international tourist attractions for walkers and
cyclists.
The valley has about 90,000 inhabitants, and it is divided into 39 Municipalities. There is a well-established tourist
industry, as it is evident by the presence of “second homes”, hotels and motorway traffic. Notwithstanding the heavy
human presence, the Susa Valley features wide semi-natural and wild areas, which host many examples of alpine
fauna (deer, chamois, roe deer, wild boar, eagles, hawk, partridges and wolves) and a very rich diversity of flower
1
The first HSR proposal dates back to the end of the eighties, and soon after the opposition in the Susa Valley
started. In 2011, the new site for the HSR surveys was chosen in the Chiomonte village (Val Susa). After that, many
manifestations took place, while the actual work for the HSR construction has not begun yet. The Association of
villages of the Susa Valley (Comunità Montana della Val Susa e Val Sangone: CMVSS, www.cmvss.it) has –
during the years – set up a team of scientists and experts, many of them from Italian universities. This team has
performed technical analyses and produced reports and papers, which have been briefly summarized here: the costbenefit analysis, the environmental impact assessment and many other studies have been used by the CMVSS for its
action of legal opposition to the HSR construction.
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International Journal of Ecosystems and Ecology Sciences (IJEES)
Vol. 2 (4): 361-368 (2012)
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species: there are four natural parks, two natural reserves and many areas of European interest. Livestock rearing,
which was very intense until the end of World War II and subsequently declined, is now in a new phase of growth,
albeit slow, and consists of about 7000 cattle, 10000 sheep and 500 goats.
The Susa Valley has a very ancient history, and many signs of its past wealth are still visible: archeological sites,
Roman villas, churches and abbeys, castles and fortresses, which attract thousands of tourists every year. At the time
of the Romans, the alpine crossovers of the valley acquired strategic and military importance: it is believed that
Hannibal trespassed in 218 BC and Julius Caesar crossed over in 61 and 58 BC, marching towards Gallia (ancient
name of France). After the fall of the Roman Empire, different populations took over each other: Goths, Byzantines
and Longobards, until in 774 AC, the French Emperor Charles I the Great conquered Italy passing through the Susa
Valley. Around the end of the twelfth century, many abbeys were built, still well preserved and open to visitors
today. In 1854, the Turin-Susa Railway was constructed, followed in 1871 by the Fréjus tunnel. After the World
War II, the valley remained part of Italy, but the Valle Stretta and the Moncenisio were handed over to France. In
conclusion, the geographical location of the Susa Valley makes it a site of considerable wealth of natural resources,
which have supported economic and cultural development over many centuries. However, the history of the valley
also suggests that this has always been an area of conquests, conflicts and political appetites.
The High Speed Rail Turin-Lyon. The problems. Let us examine why the HSR project [Angelo Tartaglia; Paolo
Beria, Raffaele Grimaldi, 2011] has been proposed and why it is still at a preliminary stage after more than 20 years
from its beginning.
Concerning freight, the central problem is that rail freight transport in Italy occurs at an average speed of 19 km per
hour [Angelo Tartaglia], since trains are often diverted and parked in transit stations, to provide priority to passenger
trains. This is the main bottleneck requiring improvement. It’s a nonsense for commodities to arrive from France at a
speed of 150 kilometers per hour and have to stop and spend most of their time in a transit station when they arrive
in Italy.
Concerning passengers, it makes sense to talk of High Speed when the journeys are longer than 250-300 km. In
Italy, if we look closely at the rail transport statistics [Angelo Tartaglia; Marco Ponti,2005], we can see that 80% of
the demand for passenger transport is for short journeys, less than 100 Km. It’s true that Italian trains are overloaded
with passengers on certain routes but only very few people go from one end of the country to the other, taking real
advantage of the high speed (they tend to use the air services instead).
A study commissioned by the Mountain Community of the Susa Valley carried out by a Transport Engineering
Company shows that the line would be justified only by a 40 million tons of freight traffic per year, translating into a
total of 350 trains per day, one train every 4 minutes at the speed of 150 km/h, alternating with passenger trains at
300 km/h.
The costs that are officially foreseen are for the entire line, not just the basic tunnel. Official estimates are around 22
billion euro, but previous experience shows that forecasts are much lower than real costs. The Italian MilanoSalerno high speed train line, already implemented, cost three times more than the forecast [Marco Ponti,2005]; the
benefits for long-distance passengers in terms of time saved cannot be disregarded, but it is balanced by much higher
tariffs, and, more than that, in terms of global investment. An ex-post cost-benefit assessment published by Beria
and Grimaldi [Paolo Beria, Raffaele Grimaldi, 2011] in 2011 shows that even the high ticket prices on the MilanSalerno HSR line do not pay back the long-term investment and daily operation costs. The implementation of the
Turin-Lyon would probably be even worse, since the expected number of passengers is very low: the line should
thus be essentially used for the transport of commodities, a modality that has been declining in the last 10 years
[Angelo Tartaglia] and that seems to have limited growth perspectives, due to the future competition by the new
Gotthard tunnel at the Italy-Switzerland border, expected to attract the large majority of traffic in the North-South
direction. Moreover the existing line, recently renewed and improved, can carry up to 20 million tons [Angelo
Tartaglia], a capacity that is much far from being saturated in the short-medium time. Proponents of the Turin-Lyon
HSR foresee 14 passenger trains a day, while the line capacity is already 250 trains at present. Moreover,
commodity traffic on rail is declining Europewide with very few exceptions, due to the fact that mature economies
do no longer exchange heavy raw materials (bricks, wood or coal) as two centuries ago. Today’s goods (highly
manufactured and technological items, such as fashion, electronics, fine chemicals) are much lighter per unit of
economic value, and it is very difficult to carry them by rail, due to a variety of structural, management and
distribution reasons. Their amount, however, would not justify a huge HSR investment.
The environmental impact for any new construction project is pretty high: if the project were really very useful, then
perhaps the benefits could offset the environmental impact from the construction work. But in this case, given the
large uncertainty about the usefulness of the project (very small, if any, shift of road traffic to the rail modality) and
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given the high investment cost, the question if the environmental impact is justified by the benefits cannot be
avoided.
Concerning construction and operating costs, at the beginning it was estimated that the whole Italian High-Speed
network (and not just the Turin-Lyon HSR project) would pay back for 60% of its costs. Then this came down to
40% and finally it was established that the 40% would not include the costs for the “nodes” near the cities, (really
expensive). According to simulations in [Marco Ponti,2005], the final estimate would be around 20%. Concerning
the Turin-Lyon HSR, even that 20% probably will not be achieved (no financial analysis is available yet), and the
State is supposed to pay 100% of the costs. The Turin-Lyon is therefore a monument to dissipation: it will cost 2 or
3 times the planned (and always postponed) bridge over the Strait of Messina (and would be equally useless).
Actually, to develop innovation, we need to focus on technology rather than on cement.
As far as employment is concerned, nowadays, the massive projects have a modest multiplier effect: manual
workers are not employed as they were in the 1800’s. And it is also well known that Italy has a great tourist value in
the future, which prevents from implementation of further landscape degrading infrastructures. Thus, there are more
fruitful ways of investing public (and private) money.
RESULTS
The energy cost-benefit analysis. One of the main ecological justifications of the HSR projects would be the
energy savings and the expected decrease of pollutant emissions, associated to the shift of a fraction of freight and
passenger traffic from road (fuel driven trucks and private cars) to electricity driven railway.
The claimed virtuosity of the train is not always confirmed in real cases, and heavily depends on the energy
investment for infrastructure, including the energy embodied in the materials and the necessary management and
maintenance over the entire infrastructure life cycle. The ridership is also of paramount importance: in the presence
of a small or decreasing traffic, the investment per unit of passenger and commodity transported would never be
competitive with other transport modalities (or with a decreased transport demand driven by more local
consumption, when such option exists). In the case of a big infrastructure project, such as the Lyon-Turin line
between France and Italy, energy and environmental costs require a special attention and a careful analysis of the
energy and material flows involved over the entire project life cycle.
Rail transport, however less versatile than road transport, may cause less local impacts and lower energy
consumption. But this is only true if society uses and/or improves an existing network to the optimum possible
extent and capacity. Instead, if a new line is constructed, with over 70 kilometers of tunnels, 10-20 years of
construction work, thousands of trucks trips for transportation of materials to and from the site, million tons of
excavated material to be disposed of, thousands of tons of iron and concrete requirement, heavy interference with
underground and surface water, to mention only a few aspects, in addition to the energy necessary to keep the
system operating, the consumption of raw materials and energy and related emissions could be so high as to
completely nullify the potential advantage of the transport modality shift. A detailed assessment of these aspects is
provided for instance in [Federici, S. Ulgiati, R. Basosi,2008; . Federici, M., S. Ulgiati, R. Basosi, 2009] and
[Chester, M.V., and A. Horvath, 2009]. Concerning passenger transport, we can compare the total energy spent to
carry a passenger for one kilometer, expressed in units of megajoules (MJ/p-km) through different transportation
patterns. A bus has the lowest energy consumption (and related GHG environmental impact), with only 0.33 MJ/pkm. A car with one person on board is no doubt the worst solution, with 1.87 MJ/p-km. A conventional intercity
train shows a much better energy performance (between 0.62 and 0.77 MJ/p-km, depending on load factor), while
the HSR is characterized by a much higher energy demand and indirect GHG emissions (between 1.02 and 1.44
MJ/p-km). For freight, the best solution is represented by truck transport (1.25 MJ/p-km), while conventional train
modality shows a consumption between 1.79-2.5 MJ/p-km. The HSR shows consumption ranging from twice to
three times (2.17 to 3.09 MJ/p-km ). Of course, results are affected by ridership and load factors. Calculations from
[Federici, S. Ulgiati, R. Basosi,2008; . Federici, M., S. Ulgiati, R. Basosi, 2009] are based on present load factors
from official statistics. A decreasing traffic would only have the effect of increasing the unit transportation costs and
emissions. Claims of HSR proposers foresee increasing traffic in the next 30-50 years, which is not supported by
present trend data and may rather be ascribed to fairy tales books. By the way, the present offer by the Italian
railway companies (FS and NTV) is about improving comfort for a limited category of users (business and executive
class coaches), with about 40% decreased number of seats. Decreasing ridership inversely affects energy and
environmental costs.
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International Journal of Ecosystems and Ecology Sciences (IJEES)
Vol. 2 (4): 361-368 (2012)
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Environmental impact analysis. The HSR construction carries a number of environmental problems, that have
been highlighted by several studies [Lucia Bonavigo, Massimo Zucchetti 2008; Angelo Tartaglia; M. Federici, S.
Ulgiati, R. Basosi; Claudio Cancelli, Giuseppe Sergi, Massimo Zucchetti, ed. 2006; Federica Appiotti, Fausto
Marincioni,2009; Massimo Zucchetti, 2012].
We limit here to point out the presence, in the Susa Valley, of geological formations with asbestos and uranium: a
case of particular concern, also considering the final destination of the extracted inert. The tunnel excavations will
be more than 100 km in total, and will pass through zones with high presence of asbestos and uranium, interacting
with the hydrogeological environment.
Radioactive excavation materials. Concerning Uranium, it is foreseen that a fraction of the resulting material from
excavations will be disposed of in two open-pit mines in the Valsusa, Meana and Caprie [Massimo Zucchetti, 2012].
This would imply the dispersion into the environment of about 3.3 10 9 Bq of radioactivity, with likely water and soil
contamination. Due to the action of meteorological agents, resuspension, and wind, such a dispersion of radioactive
pollutants would expose the local population to collective doses of several thousands of Sv/person [Massimo
Zucchetti, 2012].
Concerning excavation of tunnels in uranium-bearing rocks, even with quite low concentration, the main source of
radiation exposure is radon (222Rn), a radioactive gas, and radon decay products. Radon is colorless, odorless, and
chemically inert; it is formed by the radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil, and water, and has a half-life of
about four days. When radon undergoes radioactive decay, it emits ionizing radiation in the form of alpha particles.
It also produces metallic short-lived decay products, like: 218Po, 214Pb, 214Bi, 214Po, 210Bi, 210Pb. Their chemical
reactivity and electric properties make them stick to dust and other tiny particles in air. These dust particles can
easily be inhaled into the lung and fixed to pulmonary mucosae. The deposited atoms decay and eventually damage
cells in the lung. A considerable amount of evidence has established that prolonged exposure to the α- emitting
decay products of radon increases the risk of lung cancer [Lucia Bonavigo, Massimo Zucchetti Lucia Bonavigo,
Massimo Zucchetti,2008] . Accurate measurements of concentration are mandatory by law in workplaces, and, in
some cases, adequate countermeasures too. Compliance with dose constraints must be demonstrated by gas
measurements and may be verified or predicted with dose assessments. The dose received by an individual working
for the excavation of the HSR Tunnel is estimated, using the code RESRAD-BUILD [Lucia Bonavigo, Massimo
Zucchetti,2008].
Natural radionuclide concentrations in the Susa Valley can reach quite high concentrations in some selected
locations, due to the presence of several uranium-rich geological formations and even some former sample uranium
mines dating from the fifties. For instance, the Regional Agency for the Environment of Piedmont, Italy (ARPA)
measure concentrations up to 100 Bq/g in samples of rock collected in Venaus (Susa Valley) [ARPA Piemonte,
1997]. We however refer to more moderate values, far from the above peak values. In particular, the world average
concentration of U in rocks is estimated to be 0025 Bq/g, while worldwide mean values for other natural radioactive
species are: 0.028 Bq/g (232Th) and 0.37 Bq/g (40K). We, therefore, assume a concentration equal to 0.0265 Bq/g,
that is around 3800 times lower than the peak values above. This value is in agreement with measurements
conducted by ARPA during the excavation of a service tunnel, carried out by the Italian Energy Authority AEM, not
far from the village of Exilles in the Susa Valley [ARPA Piemonte Report, 1998].
According to these values, the absorbed dose for workers due to the permanence inside the tunnel exceeds the lowest
threshold (1 mSv/h) imposed by the Italian law [Italian Law, 1995] in the absence of adequate ventilation: in
particular, the dose equivalent value of about 197 mSv/yr without any ventilation can be reduced to 1 mSv/h with an
air exchange rate of 0.87 (1/h), i.e, all the air content of the tunnel must be completely changed almost every hour. It
is an amazing result, considering that we assumed a quite moderate concentration of uranium just slightly superior to
the world average: in presence of real uranium-rich formations that can be found in many places in Valsusa [M.
Zucchetti, 2005]; these values would scale up to unsustainable levels.
Asbestos excavation materials. Concerning asbestos, HSR proposers claim that about 170,000 m3 of asbestosbearing rock with “relevant concentrations” [Italian Government,2012] can be found 500 m from the base tunnel.
This assumption can be proved to be a huge underestimate of the real case, by at least a factor 10. First of all, let’s
note that “very low levels" are defined in [Italian Government, 2012] as "the ones under a 5% concentration of
asbestos in rocks encountered during excavation”, while the legal limit is about 0.1% according to the Italian Law;
the latter banned asbestos from any use since 1992 [Italian Law, 1992], since even a few fibers can cause serious
health damages: if such more appropriate threshold concentration is assumed for asbestos then the estimated amount
of asbestos-bearing rocks in excavation material would be much higher than 170,000 m3. Moreover, in 1995-1998
the Turin University [R. Sacchi, 2004] performed evaluations in the Susa Valley showing the presence of chrysotile
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and tremolite, both asbestos minerals. It is important to point out that the study was commissioned by Alpetunnel,
the first company responsible for the design of the Tunnel. The most recent surveys carried out by the HSR
proponents [Italian Government, 2012] and claiming the absence of asbestos are instead questionable. The sampling
activities were carried out in points where no asbestos presence was expected: the tectonics structure of the Western
Alps in the Susa Valley zone is very complex, having been involved in various geological events; as a consequence,
sampling results would have been very different in the surrounding areas. Surveys of the University of Siena found
asbestos fibers "with high tendency to defibrillation" [R. Sacchi, 2004] in 20 out of 39 rock samples tested in the
Susa Valley. Further studies [Mario Cavargna, 2006] concerning the presence of chrysotile veins identified nonnegligible asbestos concentrations in many serpentinite rocks in Val Susa. Tremolite veins are common in small
masses of serpentinite schists in the Piedmont area, especially in the upper Val Susa. Rocks are potentially asbestosrich also in other lithological contexts, the serpentinized peridotites of the “Mount Musinè” in Susa Valley [.
Compagnoni e C. Groppo, 2006] and in the ultrabasic complex in Lanzo between Almese and Caselette in lower
Susa Valley. The same rocks form the mountains above Chiusa San Michele, Sant'Ambrogio and Avigliana,
municipalities included in the route of the international and domestic tracks of the HSR.
Hydrological risk.An assessment of hydrological risks connected with the HSR construction may be summarized as
follows. In 2006, about 30 superficial water springs have been identified by the HSR proponents [23] along the old
version of track of the national segment rail line, in many villages in the Susa Valley. Same situation appears in the
Municipalities impacted by the international segment, where the number of water sources and creeks is quite high,
with the complication that several of them are used as drinkable water supply. Therefore, two kinds of problems
emerge:
• The excavation activities can drain or divert the springs leaving population without water
• The sources can be polluted, becoming undrinkable and unusable.
In the presence of very deep tunnel design, sampling surveys are not so easy because of the depth of some sites and
because of the difficulty to reach the surface sampling sites located in the upper mountain. Just to mention an
example related to the Susa Valley, during the activities for the construction of the “Pont Ventoux” hydroelectric
power plant, a large number of high pressure water jets have been found, together with an underground lake of
hundreds of thousand cubic meters. Moreover, the artificial lake of the Mont Cenis, a 333 million cubic meters water
reservoir at 2000 meters of altitude, supplying power plants in France and in Italy, is located in the area. Interception
of very high-pressure jets cannot be excluded a priori during excavations.
Carbon emissions. Train transportation modalities are claimed a priori to be carbon free or, at least, less carbon
intensive. It is certainly true that a train does not directly release any CO2 during its operation. However, the
construction of the infrastructure (excavations, tracks, viaducts, concrete for tunnel walls reinforcement, electric
lines) and vehicles, maintenance operations, and electric power all require huge amounts of energy that mainly are
direct fossil fuels and fossil powered electricity. Considering the non linear increase of energy consumption of a
running vehicle up to more than 3-4 times when speed increases from 100 to 300 km/yr [Burgess, E., 2011], due to
the kinetic energy loss while braking and aerodynamic resistance; considering also the need for strong, complex and
much more sophisticated infrastructures compared with regular IC trains, and finally considering the much lower
occupancy per trip, CO2 emissions per p-km and t-km come out to be more than 30% higher for HSR than for IC
train [M. Federici, S. Ulgiati, R. Basosi,2008] and likely to be even higher than highway track transport in times of
dramatic decline of traffic along the Turin-Lyon corridor. Infrastructure-related energy costs and emissions account
for about 40-45% of total life cycle [M. Federici, S. Ulgiati, R. Basosi ,2008; Grossrieder, C., 2011], depending on
the electric and energy mix of a country.
Calculations from the Italian Government’s cost-benefit assessment [Italian Government,2012] point out – for the
entire, not yet existing, East-West EU Corridor 5 - an annual decrease of CO2 emissions equal to 3 million ton/yr
avoided by the year 2055 with a net release until 2038; in that year the foreseen (although not supported by any
present real traffic data) increase of traffic and related savings on road transport should offset the emissions
associated to the infrastructure and operation of HSR. Surprising it may appear, these calculations do not include the
emissions related to infrastructure construction, which means that about 40% of total life cycle emissions are not
accounted for, thus making the break-even point much beyond the claimed year 2038.
Last, but not least, the Frejus highway in the Susa valley is presently used by approximately 3000 big transport
trucks per day. The estimates supporting the HSR realization assume that there will be such a traffic increase that –
as a result - more than 2300 more truck trips per day would occur, with a clear environmental pollution and traffic
impact: therefore, in front of a future benefit difficult to evaluate and very uncertain, the final result would be, if the
traffic forecasts were realistic, more trucks than now on the Valley roads.
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International Journal of Ecosystems and Ecology Sciences (IJEES)
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Actually, all the results show that the traffic previsions used to support the HSR construction are unrealistic. It
seems therefore very hard to support the claim that the construction of the HSR Turin-Lyon would be consistent
with the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, the EU Climate and Energy strategy (so-called 20-20-20 Directive)
[Directive 2009/28/EC], and future similar low-carbon agreements.
CONCLUSION
Recently, a down-sized project was presented by the Italian Government [F. Pasquali, 2012], costing one third of the
original one, and limited to the base tunnel, i.e. without any improvement of the existing line outside it (“Low-Cost
Solution”). In practice, this makes the overall time savings very modest, eliminating any possible relevance for the
passenger traffic. No analysis has been presented yet, but for sure this downsizing is the consequence of the local
opposition, the lack of public funds, and the widespread skepticism of the academic world. For sure, all the relevant
impacts will also be proportionally reduced, although this “success” does not make the expenditure any more
justified.
Can the opposition against HSR be defined as “against Progress” [Claudio Cancelli, Giuseppe Sergi, Massimo
Zucchetti, ed. 2006]? Results suggest the opposite to be true. Progress and wellbeing must not be confused with
infinite growth. The territory of Italy is small and over-populated. Natural resources (water, agricultural land,
forests, minerals) are limited. Pollution and waste are increasing. Fossil energy supplies are coming to an end.
Progress means understanding that physical limits exist to our mania to construct and transform the face of the
planet. Progress means optimizing, increasing the efficiency and durability of already existing infrastructures and
built environment, cutting out what is superfluous and investing in intellectual and cultural growth more than
material one, using minds more than muscles. The HSR represents the exact opposite of this idea: wasting resources
for no benefit.
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